When you were a little kid and, after a long day of school, your mom asked you how your day was, what did you say? You probably got tremendously excited and blabbed about how well you did on your spelling test and how teacher says you're one of the best readers in class. Then you'd talk about how you were picked first in gym class and how you didn't color outside of the lines in art class. Man, you sure were a happy kid. If someone asked you how it was going today, you'd probably be able to rattle off about ten things that "totally sucked." Man, you are one negative bastard, huh? Well, you're not alone. Complaining is something that becomes more and more central to your life as you enter your twenties and it even evolves into a sport of it's own. Of course, with a sport comes competition and with competition comes envy. It's called Complainer's Envy, and you better get used to it.
People in their early twenties love to complain. Almost every conversation you'll have at this age begins something like, "man, you do not even want to hear about my day " And, no, they probably don't, but you'll tell them anyway because without complaining, what do you have? While you used to vie to outdo all your friends' accomplishments, you now contend for title of World's Crappiest Life. How many hours of unpaid overtime do you work every week? How small is your apartment? How bitterly single are you? How many nights do you eat ramen noodles in your parent's basement? When was the last time you had a weekend off? How little money is in your checking account? Savings account yeah right, buddy. Who do I look like, a Rockefeller? Accomplishing anything becomes a mark of shame, something not to be talked about. Don't believe me? Wait three years, you'll see.
If I didn't know older people I would dismiss this tendency toward the depressing as nothing more than young people trying to relate to each other in the easiest way possible, but, as far as I can tell, this is how it is going to be for the rest of your life. Think for half a second about what old people real old people, like in their forties talk about: joint pain, job insecurity, the high cost of living, inflation, tricky politicians, blah blah blah. Complaining truly is our national sport and we just get better at it with age. By the time you reach your seventies, you're probably so good at complaining that you'll find a way to bitch and moan about getting Social Security which, mind you, is free money from the government.
If I were to be totally honest, I would tell you that I live a relatively comfortable life: I love my job, I love my friends and family, I make enough to get by and I'm pretty much free of serious medical conditions. But, if we were to strike up a conversation at a party, I would tell you that I work like a madman, have far fewer friends than I used to, could really use some extra cash and have chronic ocular migraines which, though not as serious as, say, leukemia, are very annoying. I would tell you that I live in a tiny apartment where I pay an exorbitant rent. I would even tell you that I envy the freedom my unemployed friends have (HA!). I would tell you all of these things because I want you to feel bad for me. And what would you do? Why, you'd come right back at me with a laundry list of complaints far more serious than mine: you're chronically depressed, you're unemployed, you haven't been on a date since high school and you just had to sell your car to pay the electric bill. Man, you're a loser.
But why do we do it? Why do we purposely try to portray ourselves as perennial losers in life's cruel game? I think it all has to do with manners. I was taught not to brag, to be a gracious winner, to be humble and all that other boring shit I was too totally awesome to care about. By the time you reach an 'adult' age, you probably have twenty years of repressed accomplishments under your belt. You won the state track championship in high school and, instead of talking about how good you are at running in your acceptance speech, you talked about how this trophy isn't for you, it's for the team. You made dean's list all through college and told your parents it was because they instilled in you such a good work ethic. But that is not why you made dean's list, is it? No, it's not. While you were out making dean's list your parents were sitting at home, arguing who has sacrificed more of their dreams to provide for this goddamned family. You did that all by yourself, champ, but you don't want to brag so give the glory to someone else.
This complaining complex is so bad that when someone has an actual problem they're getting divorced or they lost their home in a fire I feel bad for myself because I can't top that kind of complaint. And, what's worse, is that I don't know if my sorrow over this is the absolute height of modesty or the deepest depth of self-absorption (probably the latter). Do I want to outdo their complaint because I want to make them feel better or because I want to win (again, probably the latter).
So, what is to be done about this plague of negativity that has gripped our lives? Absolutely nothing. So long as this is a bountiful country where people can be prosperous and achieve things, we will always try to remain modest and, as a bi-product of that, we will always try to out-complain each other. I'm sorry but I really don't have time to write about this anymore: I have bills piling up, my credit is about as solid as bag of water, my heartburn is back, I have to walk to work because I can't afford a subway pass, my knees are getting worse, my dog needs heartworm medicine, I'm overweight, I've been eating hot dogs for dinner every night and I think I may be anemic.